Ofcom warns Project Canvas could be subject to competition investigation

Ofcom has warned that Project Canvas, the joint venture IPTV proposal, could be subject to a competition investigation.

The initiative, proposed by the BBC, ITV and BT, aims to develop an open-standard platform to give viewers subscription-free access to on-demand services and internet content via TV.

In a submission to the BBC Trust, which is conducting a consultation into the proposed venture, the media regulator raised concerns about the platform’s openness and neutrality.

Ofcom highlighted five “high-level issues” for the Trust’s considerations, these included ensuring the openness of the platform standards, the flexibility to implement the platform across free-to-air and pay services, “justifiable and proportionate” quality standards for content on the platform, partnership arrangements with third parties, and careful consideration of navigation and electronic programme guides.

The submission follows the BBC Trust’s decision in March not to submit Project Canvas to a public value test which would require Ofcom to undertake a market impact assessment on the project.

Peter Phillips, partner, strategy and market developments at Ofcom, said, “We understand that issues relating to the compliance of Canvas with all relevant competition obligations will be considered within the Trust’s assessment, including those arising from arrangements specific to the BBC and also those arising as a result of competition, merger and state aid law.

“In that regard we recognise that there may be a future role for the OFT and/or Ofcom to assess the arrangement under relevant merger or competition law,” Phillips added.

On Wednesday advertising body ISBA said the project would provide “an important commercial counterbalance” to the BBC’s iPlayer platform (nma.co.uk 22 April).

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